PENNED IN PRISON

Their bodies were incarcerated but not their minds. Hear the musings of great writers behind bars.
We often place upon the incarcerated, and the formerly incarcerated, an unfair stigma of their being lesser than ourselves. In many circumstances that is simply untrue. Some of the greatest minds in history have spent time behind bars, and have gone on to be catalysts for profound progress that have had lasting effects—think Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Others are just great writers with serious debt issues (like Miguel de Cervantes). I invite you to join me in shedding some of the stigma of incarceration by celebrating some of the greatest works ever written, all of which were penned while their author was in prison. - Kyle, Audible Editor
    • The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela

    • By: Nelson Mandela
    • Narrated by: Atandwa Kani
    • Length: 20 hrs and 12 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 13
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 12
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 12

    During his 10,052 days of incarceration, Mandela wrote hundreds of letters to unyielding prison authorities, fellow activists, government officials, and, most memorably, his courageous wife....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Enlightening thinking of South African Icon

    • By Shopper on 08-12-18
    • By: Nelson Mandela
    • Narrated by: Atandwa Kani
    • Length: 20 hrs and 12 mins
    • Release date: 07-10-18
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 13 ratings
    • From the Life of a Beloved and Revolutionary Leader
    • When I first had the idea of putting this list together it was after finding out that this gem of a book was going to be released in audio. Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom is one of my favorite reads of all time, something I find myself returning to every few years. Here, Mandela continues to provide his light to those who suffer from the injustices of our world, and the 255 letters he wrote in prison are truly an inspiring look at everything from how to keep a positive spirit in the face of horrible oppression, use your platform to advance the rights of those who suffer around you, and how courage isn’t always derailed by a single deed.
    • Cherry

    • A Novel
    • By: Nico Walker
    • Narrated by: Jeremy Bobb
    • Length: 8 hrs and 5 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 542
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 509
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 509

    It's 2003, and as a college freshman in Cleveland, our narrator is adrift until he meets Emily. The two of them experience an instant, life-changing connection. But when he almost loses her, he chooses to make an indelible statement: He joins the army....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • being an ex-junky is much cooler than being a junky

    • By K Sabatini on 09-02-18
    • A Novel
    • By: Nico Walker
    • Narrated by: Jeremy Bobb
    • Length: 8 hrs and 5 mins
    • Release date: 08-14-18
    • 4 out of 5 stars 542 ratings
    • From the Keys of a Prison Typewriter
    • This novel is one of my most anticipated releases of 2018, and I can’t wait to get my headphones on this audio come August. Held in prison for robbing banks after returning from Iraq as a decorated Army medic, Nico Walker began to write - on a typewriter he found in prison - this fictionalization of his story. And according to Publisher’s Weekly, Knopf’s Tim O’Connell found out about Walker through a friend of his at an indie record label and when he first read the drafts of Cherry he said that immediately he, “saw the electricity - a voice so fresh and raw.” (He may have also compared Walker to Ernest Hemingway, just saying.) If all of that doesn’t get you excited to binge-listen to Nico Walker’s story, I don’t know what will.
    • The Graybar Hotel

    • Stories
    • By: Curtis Dawkins
    • Narrated by: Pete Simonelli
    • Length: 4 hrs and 58 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 37
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 35
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 35

    In Curtis Dawkins' first short story collection, he offers a window into prison life through the eyes of his narrators and their cellmates....

    • 2 out of 5 stars
    • Meh, Don't Buy!

    • By Sharey on 07-11-18
    • Stories
    • By: Curtis Dawkins
    • Narrated by: Pete Simonelli
    • Length: 4 hrs and 58 mins
    • Release date: 07-04-17
    • 4 out of 5 stars 37 ratings
    • Emotional Stories of Modern Incarceration
    • The author of this collection of short stories about modern prison life was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. For many I’m sure that will be a deterrent to listening to this, but each of the individuals you encounter in Dawkins’ evocatively told stories provide an incredibly humanizing look at what is arguably the most inhumane backdrop for a story. Dawkins transports the listener to another world, but the stories here are real, this is not a work of fantasy.
    • De Profundis

    • By: Oscar Wilde, Merlin Holland - introduction
    • Narrated by: Simon Russell Beale, Merlin Holland
    • Length: 4 hrs and 54 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 34
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 33
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 32

    Written during his time in Reading Gaol, De Profundis is Oscar Wilde's moving letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, whose relationship with Wilde led to the poet's imprisonment....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Sorrows

    • By SactoMan on 09-04-18
    • By: Oscar Wilde, Merlin Holland - introduction
    • Narrated by: Simon Russell Beale, Merlin Holland
    • Length: 4 hrs and 54 mins
    • Release date: 08-07-15
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 34 ratings
    • A Love Letter for the Ages
    • When Oscar Wilde, a literary household name needing little introduction, was imprisoned for “indecency” at the very tail end of the 1800s he was faced with brutal conditions that were softened only by his ability to write for a short time each day. De Profundis is the result of those efforts; an exquisite love letter penned to the man Wilde loved, Lord Alfred Douglas, with portions about Wilde’s growth as a spiritual added for good measure.
    • Shantaram

    • A Novel
    • By: Gregory David Roberts
    • Narrated by: Humphrey Bower
    • Length: 42 hrs and 59 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 6,339
    • Performance
      5 out of 5 stars 5,878
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 5,866

    Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum-security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • One of My Favorite Books! Great Narration!

    • By Memphis on 06-16-14
    • A Novel
    • By: Gregory David Roberts
    • Narrated by: Humphrey Bower
    • Series: Shantaram, Book 1
    • Length: 42 hrs and 59 mins
    • Release date: 12-10-13
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 6,339 ratings
    • The Tale of A Most Wanted Man
    • A fictional story based on the amazing life of its author, Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram tells the story of a heroin addict escaped from an Australian prison who flees to India and ends up making a new home in the slums of Bombay, where he literally has to fight to survive. (Roberts is a verified prison escapee, and recovered addict.) That any part of this incredible story is based on real events is certain to astonish you as you let this modern masterpiece of fiction wash over you.
    • Letter from Birmingham Jail

    • By: Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Narrated by: Dion Graham
    • Length: 51 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      5 out of 5 stars 601
    • Performance
      5 out of 5 stars 540
    • Story
      5 out of 5 stars 535

    April 16th, the year is 1963. Birmingham, Alabama, has had a spring of nonviolent protests known as the Birmingham Campaign, seeking to draw attention to the segregation against blacks by the city government and downtown retailers....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Great audio of historical document

    • By EmilyK on 04-28-14
    • By: Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Narrated by: Dion Graham
    • Length: 51 mins
    • Release date: 04-15-13
    • 5 out of 5 stars 601 ratings
    • A Listen Everyone Should Have in Their Library
    • When he was jailed in Alabama, Dr. King received a smuggled newspaper that held on its pages the words of eight men criticizing him and his methods of non-violent protest against segregation. It was then that Dr. King decided to pen this letter on the empty margins of the newspaper, which would become arguably the most influential piece of literature to come out of the American civil rights movement.
    • Orange is the New Black

    • My Year in a Women's Prison
    • By: Piper Kerman
    • Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
    • Length: 11 hrs and 11 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 7,724
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 6,929
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 6,957

    With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money 10 years ago....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • My favorite book of the year, so far

    • By Mark on 03-31-14
    • My Year in a Women's Prison
    • By: Piper Kerman
    • Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
    • Length: 11 hrs and 11 mins
    • Release date: 06-11-12
    • 4 out of 5 stars 7,724 ratings
    • From Lockup to Laugh-Out-Loud TV Sensation
    • Here’s the thing: Piper Kerman didn’t actually pen this book while in prison. So going by the parameters I laid out at the beginning of this list, I am cheating; however, did you think I was actually going to make it through this entire list without including the book that inspired the smash Netflix hit? Not a chance. If you’re not familiar with her story already, the upper-middle-class (and white) author was busted for delivering a suitcase of dirty money and sentenced to a little over a year in a Connecticut prison where she met an interesting, to say the least, cast of characters – and learned to survive in a world vastly different than one she had previously known. I’m a firm believer that the book is always better than the movie (and/or TV series) and this further bolsters my belief in that truism.
    • Don Quixote

    • Translated by Edith Grossman
    • By: Miguel de Cervantes, Edith Grossman (translator)
    • Narrated by: George Guidall
    • Length: 39 hrs and 37 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 3,361
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 3,152
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 3,139

    Sixteenth-century Spanish gentleman Don Quixote, fed by his own delusional fantasies, takes to the road in search of chivalrous adventures....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Masterpiece - in literature and narration!

    • By Peter Y C. on 06-13-14
    • Translated by Edith Grossman
    • By: Miguel de Cervantes, Edith Grossman (translator)
    • Narrated by: George Guidall
    • Length: 39 hrs and 37 mins
    • Release date: 10-29-12
    • 4.5 out of 5 stars 3,361 ratings
    • “He who reads much and walks much, goes far and knows much.”
    • While locked away in a Spanish debtors prison cell in the 17th Century, Miguel de Cervantes began what would become the top-selling novel in the history of the world, with sales estimated at over 500 million. Join Don Quixote de la Mancha and his sidekick, Sancho Panza, on a delusion-filled quest for chivalrous adventure that has enthralled readers for hundreds of years.
    • The Enormous Room

    • By: E. E. Cummings
    • Narrated by: Ken Kliban
    • Length: 10 hrs and 56 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      3 out of 5 stars 25
    • Performance
      3.5 out of 5 stars 22
    • Story
      3.5 out of 5 stars 22

    The Enormous Room is a 1922 autobiographical novel by the poet and novelist E. E. Cummings about his temporary imprisonment in France during World War I....

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • e.e.cummings life in WWI prison camp

    • By Jean on 06-20-13
    • By: E. E. Cummings
    • Narrated by: Ken Kliban
    • Length: 10 hrs and 56 mins
    • Release date: 08-31-10
    • 3 out of 5 stars 25 ratings
    • In the Prison of One’s Own Mind
    • An ambulance driver during World War I, Cummings was arrested in France after standing in solidarity with a good friend who was arrested for anti-war sentiments. During his four-month stint in prison, he chronicled the events and turned it into an auto-biographical work of fiction whose title refers not only to the space in which he lived with numerous other people but also - and arguably the most haunting aspect - dealing with living in the enormous room that is one’s mind.

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